Editor’s Note: The Business Journal is happy to present a feature on the 2020 U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2020 awardees for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
This year is a special year for both the Small Business Administration in Guam and the Pacific Island Small Business Development Center Network — which operates throughout the islands in our region.
It is the 30th anniversary of the Small Business awards program and the 25th anniversary of the University of Guam Pacific Islands Small Business Development Center Network.
The Federated States of Micronesia has joined the network this year — with a center in Pohnpei.
Typically, the U.S. Small Business Administration in Guam presents an annual event to recognize awardees, which is well attended by past awardees, supporters of the event and Guam’s media organizations —and has definitely become a welcome and happy gathering, since it celebrates the accomplishments of the island’s business community present and past.
Due to the pandemic, that event — like many others — will not happen.
The Northern Mariana Islands opened a Small Business Development Center under the NMI Department of Commerce.
Both the Guam and NMI offices have been heavily involved in the past months in assisting community members with federal disaster loans.
Kenneth Lujan is the long-time Guam manager of the U.S. SBA in Guam. He works with Josette “Gigi” Mueller, lender relations specialist. Frederick Granillo was appointed as director of the SBDC in June and Nicole Babauta is the CNMI director and business advisor for the SBDC. Jane Ray is the small business adviser and training program coordinator for the SBDC.
This year’s SBA awardees are further evidence of the talent and hard work that takes place on Guam — day in, day out to sustain and improve the community — and that is always worth celebrating — pandemic or not.
Guam’s Small Business award winners were nominated by local lending institutions and business organizations.
According to Lujan, “The virtual National Small Business Week event, rescheduled from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held Sept. 22 to 24. This year’s National Small Business Week activities will include numerous educational panels providing retooling and innovative practices for entrepreneurs as our nation’s small businesses look to pivot and recover toward a stronger economy.
For registration and additional information on National Small Business Week, please visit sba.gov/NSBW.”
Until this year, there has never been an awardee from the NMI — but in 2020 there is — and an award that has never been presented in the region. This is yet another reason to celebrate.
Please take the time to read about the awardees and these extracts from their stories.
Susan Biolchino, Christopher Biolchino and Jesse Rosario, president/vice president for operations/vice president for sales and marketing, Graphic Center Inc. Guam, Small Business Person of the Year
The growth and development of Graphic Center Inc. is nothing short of remarkable during the last 30 years, when business cycles and natural disasters have landed serious setbacks to Guam’s economy. Not only did the company grow (from eight to 44 employees; from 8,000 to 21,00 square feet) but its introduction to state-of-the art printing technology and data mining, embracing environmentally friendly processes and papers … the continued training of all their employees and their invaluable role to nonprofits throughout the island and region puts GCI Guam squarely among the storied histories in Guam’s business chronicles. …
Graphic Center leverages efficiencies of scale to meet the urgent demands of high-volume printing, with a relentless commitment to 100% on-time delivery, satisfying critical turnarounds and exceeding quality expectations. One of the most trusted names in the Guam print industry, GCI is also known for its unwavering commitment to environmentally friendly, ecologically sound print practices. The s company strives to reduce waste, increasing energy efficiency with every job while preserving the planet’s precious resources. GCI is known for a long list of distinguished clients who enjoy unrivaled quality, quick turnaround, competitive pricing and peace of mind that results from working with a true industry leader. …
GCI is known for its generosity of heart in supporting local businesses in their sales and marketing goals by providing up to date technology in printing.
More so, GCI has supported numerous nonprofit organizations by sponsoring and supporting them with all of their printing needs, often in the form of in-kind donations.
Susan Biolchino and GCI are members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Guam Visitors Bureau and Guam Contractors Association. In addition, Susan Biolchino’s community service includes the Guam Women’s Club, the Guam Girl Scouts, the Guam Association of Realtors, among others. She is also a Nominee for the Guam Business Magazine Businesswoman of the Year.
Mary A.Y. Okada, president, Guam Community College, Women In Business Champion of the Year award
Mary A.Y. Okada is the first female president and CEO of Guam Community College and has held the position since 2007. Under Okada’s leadership, GCC has been commended by both the public and private sectors for its development and support of workforce education at both the secondary (career and technical education) and post-secondary. She implemented an ambitious campus expansion with the construction of seven new sustainable buildings and the renovation of several other structures on campus. Her leadership and fiscal expertise has resulted in GCC receiving 17 years of qualified low-risk audits with no questionable costs or unresolved prior year audit finds, an accomplishment no other government agency has been able to match. …
Okada was a founding member of the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2013, filling a need for a strong businesswomen’s advocacy group. This included women’s voices and action in job creation, competitive wages and benefits, health care, education, workplace equality, crime prevention and so much more. …
Okada has built a culture of progress and advancement at Guam Community College and, through her involvement in various professional and community organizations, has been a vocal advocate for workforce development that builds opportunities for all. From marketing to visual communications, to construction trades, from computer sciences and computer networking to the new associate’s for practical nursing, GCC has expanded the opportunities for advancement through education and workforce development. Providing relevant education and skillsets builds the basis for advancement. This long-term trajectory is foundational to the success and sustainability of women in business. Preparing them for the workplace and establishing a path for life-long learning increases the chance of continued progress and success.
Sophia Chu, general manager, Hyatt Regency Guam, Minority Small Business Champion of the Year award
Sophia Chu is the first female and local general manager of the Hyatt Regency Guam. She is also the 2016 Guam Business Magazine Businesswoman of the Year awardee. Chu began her upward rise at the then-Palace Hotel Guam for three years. She was hired by the Hyatt, where she has been for more than 20 years. Among her qualifications, she is a Mandarin speaker. Chu earned her promotion in a manner uncharacteristic of the hotel industry. Rather than moving from hotel to hotel and uprooting her young family, she chose to remain in a single hotel, with a single home base. Her drive, tenacious focus on excellence, quality and experience, and nurturing a strong local base of support as well as developing in-house management talent contributed to the Hyatt’s recognition of her as a valuable asset and a critical icon of the Hyatt presence in Guam.
Chu and her team provide guidance to minority and women-owned businesses – whether those businesses are located within the hotel or outside of it. She has supported efforts and fundraising events of non-profits such as Soroptimist [groups] the Guam Women’s Club and the International Women’s Club. She has been a guest speaker at high schools and trade schools to encourage more participation in the industry and has been a mentor and supporter of minority groups and women within the Hyatt to take on leadership roles.
In addition to recruiting, hiring and developing minority and female leaders, Chu has reinstituted the Hyatt’s internal management training aimed at identifying prospective management candidates for development and training.
Joaquin P.L.G. Cook, president/CEO, Bank of Guam, Financial Services Champion of the Year award
Himself a small business owner, Cook understands small business needs, dreams and requirements. Whether providing counsel to small businesses and suppliers to his companies, to speaking on the importance of environmental protection in the community, to hosting social entrepreneurs, to lending to small businesses, to recognizing small business leaders, Cook spends immeasurable time in the small business community, supporting the growth and development of small and emerging businesses.
Mindful that Bank of Guam was once itself a small business, the added compassion and need to grow and nurture growing businesses is something Kin is comfortable with. The Bank of Guam has consistently been the top Guam SBA Lender or Banker of the Year, while the bank has nominated 47 winning entries since 2007 to the annual recognition of small businesses and small business professionals. …
Cook has been a principal advocate in the bank promoting small business services and opportunities to our community. From the offering of merchant services and online banking to featuring companies at 11 years of Economic Forums and the bank’s four year old small business forum, he has led a team that has provided a platform for small companies to tell their story and exhibit their services. …
Financing is only one aspect of a small business venture; remaining present and significant in the face of threats to the small business is equally important. Providing programs to smooth the flow of investment capital means assuring small business and entrepreneurs have a reliable source of options. From loans to advice to forum platforms, the work to provide small ventures with financing options remains at the forefront of Cook’s work.
Tonnie Guzman, owner/chef, Z’s Green Canteen, Home-Based Business Champion of the Year
Z’s Green Canteen is the first plant-based food truck on Guam to be defined by sustainability goals to include support of local farmers and education of the community about the holistic and long-term benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
Wanting to spend more time with her daughter and identifying the need for healthier food options in the community, Tonnie started Z’s Green Canteen from her home. The twin purposes of being sustainable and supporting local farmers spotlights Z’s Green Canteen efforts to teach our community about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. With an emphasis on protecting our environment, the business has sought to redefine people’s relationship with food, educating the community about the importance of lifestyle and health to the overall health of the community and the environment. …
Tonnie spends many of her days collaborating, networking and partnering with other sustainability minded businesses in the interest of promoting and supporting their meaning and cause.
Educating and teaching people about their relationship with food is a profound, challenging and time-consuming effort, given she does this one person at a time, usually with her customers.
Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer
Phillip T. Mendiola-Long
San Jose, Tinian
Northern Mariana Islands
Phillip Mendiola-Long is president of Sherman Consulting LLC and president of Fiduciary Resources LLC.
When Super Typhoon Yutu hit Tinian on Oct. 24, 2018, the storm’s 180 mile-per-hour winds severely damaged Phillip Mendiola-Long’s gas station, one of only two on the island. The storm destroyed more than 3,000 homes, and his residence suffered extensive damages.
Despite his losses, Mendiola-Long decided to share his remaining resources to support the island’s recovery. He returned to the gas station to find that the winds had ripped out the only two gas pumps from their foundations.
Within 24 hours, he and his staff had scavenged the island, found a hand pump, and built an extension line into the underground gas tank. The team could now begin pumping fuel for first responders, law enforcement officials, and city agencies involved in the recovery effort. Mendiola-Long also organized a volunteer effort to distribute generators donated by a local charity to disaster survivors.
Mendiola-Long reached out to Guam business contacts and gathered food, water, tents, first-aid kits, and other survival necessities for the disaster survivors. He used his office as a supply distribution center that stayed open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Mendiola-Long drove to Tinian’s hardest-hit areas, personally delivering relief goods to those in desperate need.
Using social media, he reached out to business contacts, family, and friends in Hawaii, Guam, Nevada, and Texas and asked for donations. Mendiola-Long’s efforts netted 20 boxes of supplies and $15,000 in cash for the beleaguered island residents. mbj